Other jurisdictions besides Portugal have also responded quickly in face of COVID-19; they include (among others) Taiwan, South Korea, and Greece

At a previous post I’ve noted that Portugal is among countries that have done well in facing COVID-19 by responding quickly.

Among other jurisdictions that have done well are Taiwan, South Korea, and Greece. Also in the category of quick responders are countries such as Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. As well, Canada has been cited as a country that has acted relatively quickly.

Taiwan and South Korea have also responded quickly

If we think of a continuum of responses to COVID-19, Taiwan can be positioned at one end and a number of other countries including the United States can be positioned at the other end.

I’ve outlined Taiwan’s approach at a previous post:

Taiwan has got it right

The status of its public health infrastructure plays a key role in determining how well a country responds to a pandemic.

An April 11, 2020 Guardian article is entitled: “Why is South Korea beating coronavirus? Its citizens hold the state to account: The widely lauded policy of testing, tracing and treating has its roots in Koreans’ expectation of high-quality public services.”

As well, an April 15, 2020 Reuters article is entitled: “What you need to know about the coronavirus right now.”

An excerpt reads:

South Korea, among the first countries to bring a major coronavirus outbreak under control, is now taking steps to control the disease well into the future, relying heavily on technology and its hyper-connected society.

Tools deployed will include a smartphone tracking app for new airport arrivals; a so-called “smart city” database of thousands of people infected by the new coronavirus and their contacts; and electronic bracelets that track people breaking quarantine laws.

“We are in a lengthy tug of war with the coronavirus,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said, adding the battle could last months or even years.

An April 20, 2020 CBC article is entitled: “Why South Korea has managed to flatten the COVID-19 curve: Testing, contact tracing, attention to detail and leadership have helped get pandemic under control.”

An excerpt reads:

South Korea’s first line of defence against COVID-19 now is at the Seoul airport, and it’s an impressive sight.

Thousands of passengers in orderly lineups, almost all masked, wait patiently to have their temperatures scanned. They pass before many infrared cameras, and then electronic thermometers are held up to their ears. If they show any symptoms, they are immediately ushered to adjacent testing facilities.

All inbound passengers have to download a cellphone app that allows the government to monitor them for a 14-day quarantine period, during which they are not allowed to leave their homes or hotels.

Of related interest: An April 20, 2020 Associated Press article is entitled: “North Korean defectors, experts question zero virus claim.”

An excerpt reads:

North Korea’s main newspaper recently called its public health system “the most superior in the world” and said that Kim Jong Un’s devotion to improving it is the reason why there are no infections.

North Korea’s socialist free medical service collapsed in the mid-1990s amid economic chaos and a famine that killed an estimated hundreds of thousands. In recent years, Kim Jong Un has built new hospitals and modernized some medical facilities as the economy improved, but most of the medical benefits still largely go to his ruling elite, experts say.

Dozens of refugees interviewed in a recent study said they felt the North’s health care system has become poorer under Kim Jong Un, according to Min Ha-ju, a North Korean refugee-turned-researcher. She said the gap between the haves and the havenots in terms of medical service is deepening because a crumbled state rationing system has led to a burgeoning private economy.

Greece like Portugal has also responded quickly

An April 14, 2020 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Greece learned from Italy’s and Spain’s mistakes and used rapid response to keep its virus deaths low.”

An excerpt reads:

Greece was able to keep its death count down by listening to its scientists and moving much faster than most other countries to lock down the economy. The government had ample political support to do so.

Greece’s new government, led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has mustered enormous political and popular support to put his virus-fighting agenda into action, said Takis Pappas, a Greek political scientist at the University of Helsinki who has written about Greece’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

“Mitsotakis went into the crisis with several advantages and was able to move very fast,” he said in an interview. “He made the case for a common response and there was no room for the Opposition to slow him down.”

A quick response to COVID-19 entails avoidance of magical thinking

A capacity to see what was about to happen was key, in countries that have responded quickly to COVID-19. Of related interest: An April 20, 2020 STAT article is entitled: “The months of magical thinking: As the coronavirus swept over China, some experts were in denial.”

An excerpt reads:

The response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and other countries has been hobbled by a host of factors, many involving political and regulatory officials. Resistance to social distancing measures, testing debacles, and longtime failures to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic all played a role.

But a subtler, less-recognized factor contributed to the wasting of precious weeks in January and February, when preparations to try to stop the virus should have kicked immediately into high gear.

Magical thinking — you could call it denial — hampered the ability of even some of the most seasoned infectious diseases experts to recognize the full threat of what was bearing down on the world.

As China was seeking to rid itself of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a number of leading infectious diseases scientists mused that the outbreak would be controlled or might burn itself out. Yes, there were cases outside China — just over 100 had been reported to the World Health Organization by Jan. 31 — but they were spread out in relatively small numbers in 19 countries. The virus, the thinking went, didn’t appear to be behaving as explosively outside of China as it had inside it.

In hindsight, that argument, from a biological point of view, didn’t make any sense — and it ignored a soon-to-be-apparent Epidemiology 101 lesson: It takes time for a virus that spreads from person to person to hit an exponential growth phase in transmission, even if every new case was infecting on average two to three other people.

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